Structure of the course

This course focuses on the issues of sustainability and sustainable development from both a business (micro-level) as well as societal (macro-level) perspective.

  • Goals for the course

    Goals for the course

    The overall aim of this programme is to enable practitioners to develop innovative and feasible solutions to resolve grand societal challenges and to make a difference in their organizations and the societies they are living in. As a part of the new Work-integrated Learning programme developed by the ENGAGE.EU university alliance, the course is developed and delivered in collaboration with Université Toulouse 1 Capitole.

    The main goals of the programme are:

    • To provide participants with macro-level insights on the connection between sustainability, sustainable development, and societal transition. 
    • To equip participants with the knowledge and skills necessary to innovate existing business models towards greater sustainability and/or to develop new sustainable business models.
    • To facilitate the practical application of these insights, knowledge, and skills through an intensive, application-oriented workshop, where participants work collaboratively on an innovative solution for a concrete societal challenge.

    To achieve these goals, the programme is structured in three modules of equal weighting. The first two input-oriented modules provide participants with the relevant insights, knowledge, and skills for addressing and tackling grand societal challenges from both a macro-level (“Managing Societal Transition”, delivered by Université Toulouse 1 Capitole) as well as a micro-level (“Developing Sustainable Business Models”, delivered by NHH Norwegian School of Economics) perspective. The third application-oriented module is an intensive workshop taking place in Toulouse. In this module (“The Bootcamp”) participants work in international and interdisciplinary teams to apply their learnings from the input modules to develop a feasible solution for a real-life societal challenge sponsored by Engage.EU stakeholders.

  • Learning outcome

    Learning outcome

    After completing the course, participants will have acquired the following learning outcomes, defined in terms of knowledge, skills, and competences.

    The participants will have:

    Knowledge of 

    • the central concepts and theories on sustainability, sustainable development, innovation, and their link to societal transition;
    • the interdependencies generate by societal transition and how they affect our ways of living;
    • the most recent research insights in the field of business model innovation and sustainable business models;
    • the trends that are disrupting different industries (e.g., the sharing economy, disruptive innovation, digitalization,) and how to respond to these trends by enacting sustainable business models.

    Skills to

    • use a systemic perspective to analyse economic activity in the context of societal transition;
    • identify the facilitators and barriers to innovation and sustainable business model innovation;
    • balance the needs for commercial vs. social and ecological value creation in designing a sustainable business model;
    • design a new and feasible sustainable business model in a new and/or existing company.

    General competence in

    • problem-solving, solution-oriented thinking, and critical reflection;
    • planning and executing project work in international and cross-sectoral collaborations;
    • communicate business ideas and business models in a clear and engaging manner.
  • Course organisation

    Course organisation

    The course consists of three modules: two input-oriented modules delivered fully online combining synchronous and asynchronous teaching and learning activities, followed by one application-oriented module taking place as a three day in-person workshop in Toulouse. The contents and organisation of the three modules are described below.

    Module 1: Managing Societal Transition (delivered by Université Toulouse 1 Capitole)

    The first module of the course takes a macro-level perspective to explore the nature, different forms, and implications of societal transition. Faced with climate constraints and environmental challenges, companies, like all other actors, must change profoundly and engage in this transition. However, understanding this societal transition requires thinking about the relationships and interdependencies between different empirical phenomena and scientific disciplines. To this end, we will introduce participants to the systems approach and theories of complexity to understand society as a complex system. By that means it will become clear that the societal transition required to fight against, e.g., climate change, will necessarily impact all aspects of how we produce, consume, decide, and, more generally, live. We will examine these impacts and show their relationships. One of the dimensions of societal transition is the "relationship to the world" (Hartmut Rosa) that postmodern individuals maintain, which finally brings up the question of "resonance" in the context of societal transition. We will conclude with examining the way in which the societal transition questions acts of entrepreneurship to lead over to the second module concerned with developing sustainable business models.

    This first module is covers four days and is delivered fully online, combining asynchronous and live synchronous teaching and learning activities. Every morning, a new session module with teaching materials and exercises will be published on our online learning platform Moodle which participants are asked to work on and complete flexibly over the day/s, according to their individual availabilities and time schedules. In addition, we will have three online live sessions via Zoom to welcome and introduce (day 1) you to the course and relevant functionalities of the Moodle learning platform, to host an inspiring guest speaker (day 3), and to finally wrap-up this first module (day 4).

    The sessions have the following contents:

    Session 1: Societal transition: what are we talking about?

    (Day 1 - Tuesday, May 09th: live Welcome and Introduction session via Zoom from 0900-1000h CEST, followed by asynchronous online learning activities via Moodle)

    Faced with the urgency of climate threats (cf. IPCC reports) and the extent of the degradation of the biosphere (biodiversity, pollution, etc.), it is a question of designating, describing, and correctly understanding an unprecedented situation. During this session, we will see that the concept of transition (and resilience), which is more systemic, replaces those of sustainable development and sustainability. At the end of the session, participants will understand and be able to define the concept and phenomenon of societal transition.

    Session 2: Societal transition as a complex system

    (Day 2 - Wednesday, May 10th: asynchronous online learning activities via Moodle)

    Designing societal transition requires thinking about the relationships and interdependencies between various empirical phenomena and different scientific disciplines. Climate and environmental threats induce systemic risks to human societies and addressing them requires policies that are themselves systemic. In addition to this systemic dimension, we must add the complexity resulting in particular from the probable non-linearity of the process and therefore its high unpredictability. At the end of the session, participants will be able to think of and characterize societal transition as a complex system.

    Session 3: Main forms of societal transition

    (Day 2 - Wednesday, May 10th: asynchronous online learning activities via Moodle)

    If technical change and innovation carry a lot of hope in the contemporary situation, the thought of technology leads to relativize this optimism. Indeed, the societal transition requires major changes in behaviour in most areas of human activity and involves large-scale transformations in the way we produce, consume, and live together. It will be a question of identifying them and putting them in relation to grasp their interdependencies. At the end of the session, participants will have this holistic vision enabling them to better define the positioning of their own activity.

    Session 4: Societal transition, “relationship to the world”, and “resonance”

    (Day 3 - Thursday, May 11th: asynchronous online learning activities via Moodle and a live Guest Speaker session via Zoom 1600-1715h CEST)

    According to sociologist Harmut Rosa, individuals in "late postmodernity" societies, characterized by a "great acceleration", are experiencing a crisis of their "relationship to the world" that he develops with the concept of "resonance". We will see that one of the conditions for the success of the societal transition is the transformation of the "relationship to the world" of contemporary individuals. At the end of the session, participants will be able to understand that the societal transition implies finding "resonant" relationships with the world surrounding them.

    Session 5: The entrepreneurial project in the societal transition

    (Day 4 - Friday, May 12th: asynchronous online learning activities via Moodle and a live Wrap-up session via Zoom from 1500-1600h CEST)

    Like all actors, societal transition profoundly affects private companies both regarding their purposes and their operations. In this session, we will examine some dimensions of this question to conclude on the theme of sustainable business models treated in the next module. Participants will thus be able to position sustainable business models in the context of the changes induced on private companies by societal transition.

    Module 2: developing Sustainable Business Models (delivered by NHH Norwegian School of Economics)

    The second module covers five days and is delivered fully online in a live synchronous mode via Zoom. Every day, we will have online live sessions from 1300-1630h (CEST) combining lectures, groupwork activities, and guest speakers on selected topics.

    Session 1: Innovation - what it is, and what it is not?

    (Day 1 - Monday, May 22rd: 1300-1630h CEST, live online session via Zoom)

    Innovation is central to modifying existing business models to make them more sustainable as well as to designing new ones that shall address and tackle specific societal or environmental grand challenges. In this session, we will introduce the participants to the fundamental aspects of entrepreneurship as a process with product, service, and/or business model innovations as outcomes. We will learn about relevant criteria to distinguish different types of innovations and explore the question of how “new-to-the-world” successful innovations should (not) be. Furthermore, we will discuss models describing certain trajectories that innovations typically follow in terms of (technological) performance, adoption, and diffusion in social systems. By the end of the session, participants will understand the principles of innovation, the difference between inventions and innovations, as well as the key features of different types of innovations and their diffusion patterns.

    Session 2: leveraging network effects within and across country borders

    (Day 2 - Tuesday, May 23rd: 1300-1630h CEST, live online session via Zoom)

    Spurred by increasing use of digital technologies and platforms, sustainable business models and their underlying product and/or service innovations are increasingly prone to produce certain demand side externalities determining their diffusion potential. In this session, we will focus on network externalities as powerful driver of innovation diffusion and key factor determining the successful scaling of business model innovations. We will explore different types of network effects, their antecedents, and their consequences for companies, industries, and societies. By the end of the session, participants will understand the link between specific features of innovations and the type and strength of the network effects they produce, including the role of national country borders as potential impediments to leveraging sustainable business model innovations featuring network effects internationally.

    Session 3: Business models as conceptual frames and practical tools

    (Day 3 - Wednesday, May 24th: 1300-1630h CEST, live online session via Zoom)

    In order to either re-invent existing business models to align them with today’s grand societal challenges or design new business models that tackle some specific societal grand challenge, one must first understand the concept of business models and learn to analyse them. In this first session, we will introduce the participants to the basic concepts, frameworks, and theories on business models. By the end of this session, participants are able to identify, describe, and analyse existing business models to find out about their strengths and weaknesses and the necessity as well as potential to change them in ways to address and tackle societal challenges.

    Session 4: sustainable business models

    (Day 4 - Thursday, May 25th: 1300-1630h CEST, live online session via Zoom)

    Sustainable business models integrate the creation of economic, environmental, and social value. A sustainable business model differs from a conventional business model in that it creates, delivers, and captures value for all stakeholders without depleting the natural, economic, and social capital it relies on. In this session, we will introduce the participants to different types of sustainable business models and develop criteria to choose the one that may fit best with a company’s mission. We will furthermore discuss trends that are disrupting different industries (e.g., the sharing economy, disruptive innovation, digitalization) and explore how these trends require, or have enabled, new sustainable business models to emerge, such as circular business models, hybrid organizations, or collaborative business models. By the end of this session, participants have acquired a comprehensive overview of the different types of sustainable business models and can identify which of these business models may be best suited for a company, or industry.

    Session 5: sustainable business model innovation

    (Day 5 - Friday, May 26th: 1300-1630h CEST, live online session via Zoom)

    In established firms, sustainable business model innovation refers to the process of either (1) introducing a sustainable business model to the firm’s existing business model portfolio (by diversification), or (2) innovating the firm’s core business model to increase its positive (or reduce its negative) impact on society and/ or environment. In this session, we will discuss the various challenges when attempting to design sustainable business models. We will furthermore explore possible solutions to these challenges. By the end of this session, participants will understand the different ways in which sustainable business model innovation can be successfully managed and implemented.

    Module 3: “The Bootcamp” (hosted by the ENGAGE.EU Labs at Université 1 Toulouse Capitole)

    The bootcamp is a 3 full day intensive learning experience where course participants will apply the insights, knowledge, and skills gained in the two previous input-oriented modules to a real-life societal challenge sponsored by an Engage.EU stakeholder.

    The participants will have the opportunity to put in practice and employ what they have learned about sustainable business models and managing societal transition during the previous two input-oriented modules of the programme. As an application-oriented workshop, the bootcamp will be take place as an in-person event in Toulouse, hosted by one of the ENGAGE.EU Labs maintained by the Université of Toulouse 1 Capitole. In these labs, participants will work collaboratively in international teams assisted by experiences staff and lab coordinators. In this way, the bootcamp provides groups of participants an opportunity to make a difference by taking on real-life challenges and developing solutions that will have a direct impact. In addition to the contents- and methods-related knowledge and skills acquired during the first two modules, participants will gain further skills such as solution-oriented thinking and international and cross-sectoral collaboration and communication skills. Furthermore, the bootcamp offers opportunities to grow participants’ international networks, to exchange experiences, and to make new connections around professional topics.

  • Assessment


    If the participants opt for taking an exam, the examination will be about four weeks after the completion of the application-oriented module (The Bootcamp) and come as a term paper submission and final presentation (online) to an expert audience. The scheduling of the final presentation can be coordinated individually with the candidate.

    Participants have two options:

    • Take an exam to earn 7.5 ECTS. Participants who aim to use the course as one module within a degree-giving program are advised to take the exam.
    • Assessment on a Pass/Fail basis depending on their regular attendance and participation in the three modules.